A little more about pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus):
Pileated woodpeckers feed on insects including ants, wood boring beetles, termites, flies and caterpillars with carpenter ants being a primary food source. They chip bark from trees to get at the insects or excavate large, rectangular holes in live and dead wood to get at ant galleries and other insects. Using their tongues, pileated woodpeckers can extract insects from their tunnels. Fruits and nuts round out their diet.
Each year pileated woodpeckers excavate a new nest cavity. They also have roost cavities, often with several entrances. Pileated woodpeckers holes are not difficult to find in the forest, only the birds themselves – at least for me.
Other birds and mammals use pileated woodpecker holes to feed and for shelter.
The territory of a pileated woodpecker pair can be from 1,000 to 4,000 acres, depending on food availability. The monogamous pair aggressively defend their territory, although occasionally they will tolerate a newcomer in the winter. For that reason I was surprised when I saw four or five pileated woodpeckers together. Pileated woodpeckers fledge in 24 to 28 days after which they remain with their parents for a couple months. During this time the parents provide food and teach the young woodpeckers to find their own food. About September the juvenile woodpeckers leave their parents. My guess is that I came across parents with their young since there were so many pileated woodpeckers together.
Pileated woodpeckers use their long tails as a brace when excavating and feeding on tree trunks. I was fascinated by how the pileated woodpeckers would hitch or bob down the trunk tail first. I did not know they could descend a tree in that manner. The tails of pileated woodpeckers are important in descending backwards.
Other than the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus), see Northern Flicker 01-05-12, the pileated woodpecker is the only woodpecker that feeds on the ground. Again, I was surprised to watch these large woodpeckers probing the duff on the forest floor.
These pictures are of a male and female pileated woodpecker and were taken along the Pacific Crest Trail near Burney Falls (Shasta County CA). The male has a red “moustache” which the female lacks. The female’s crest also begins further back on her head.
I was so happy to finally observe pileated woodpeckers.